“I think you had better go,” said Colonel Musgrave. “Please go, Patricia, before I murder you.”
She saw that he was speaking in perfect earnest.
Rudolph Musgrave sat all night beside the body. He had declined to speak with innumerable sympathetic cousins—Vartreys and Fentons and Allardyces and Musgraves, to the fifth and sixth remove—who had come from all quarters, with visiting-cards and low-voiced requests to be informed “if there is anything we can possibly do.”
Rudolph Musgrave sat all night beside the body. He had not any strength for anger now, and hardly for grief, Agatha had been his charge; and the fact that he had never plucked up courage to allude to her practises was now an enormity in which he could not quite believe. His cowardice and its fruitage confronted him, and frightened him into a panic frenzy of remorse.
Agatha had been his charge; and he had entrusted the stewardship to Patricia. Between them—that Patricia might have her card-game, that he might sit upon a platform for an hour or two with a half-dozen other pompous fools—they had let Agatha die. There was no mercy in him for Patricia or for himself. He wished Patricia had been a man. Had any man —an emperor or a coal-heaver, it would not have mattered—spoken as Patricia had done within the moment, here, within arm’s reach of the poor flesh that had been Agatha’s, Rudolph Musgrave would have known his duty. But, according to his code, it was not permitted to be discourteous to a woman....
He caught himself with grotesque meanness wishing that Agatha had been there,—privileged by her sex where he was fettered,—she who was so generous of heart and so fiery of tongue at need; and comprehension that Agatha would never abet or adore him any more smote him anew.
* * * * *
And chance reserved for him more poignant torture. Next day, while Rudolph Musgrave was making out the list of honorary pall-bearers, the postman brought a letter which had been forwarded from Chicago. It was from Agatha, written upon the morning of that day wherein later she had been, as Patricia phrased it, “queer, you know.”
He found it wildly droll to puzzle out those “crossed” four sheets of trivialities written in an Italian hand so minute and orderly that the finished page suggested a fly-screen. He had so often remonstrated with Agatha about her penuriousness as concerned stationery.
“Selina Brice & the Rev’d Henry Anstruther, who now has a church in Seattle, have announced their engagement. Stanley Haggage has gone to Alabama to marry Leonora Bright, who moved from here a year ago. They are both as poor as church mice, & I think marriage in such a case an unwise step for anyone. It brings cares & anxieties enough any way, without starting out with poverty to increase and render deeper every trouble....”